I missed the abrupt breeze that tends to grace these parts as I stood in line on that hot August afternoon, waiting to enter Pine Creek Lodge, a relatively intimate music venue nestled beneath the Absaroka Mountain Range in Montana’s Paradise Valley. The lack of shade didn’t stop the excited crowd from mingling, one of my favorite parts of a live music experience. Once the line started moving, I had the pleasure of meeting people from other states, many of whom were visiting Montana for the first time.
Out-of-towners were welcomed with that love-thy-neighbor ethos that encompasses so much of “The Last Best Place.” Paradise Valley, in particular, draws an immense number of tourists, due of course, to its close proximity to Yellowstone National Park. But this past August, the newbies flocked to the valley for a different reason.
Music superstar John Mayer, who lives there part-time, was hosting three shows at Pine Creek Lodge. The first concert featured Mayer with Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead; the second featured a comedy set by the hilarious (and often controversial) Dave Chapelle; and for the third, Mayer performed solo. He called the first-of-its-kind series “Rise for the River.”
As the name suggests, Mayer was performing to provide economic relief for the community following the disastrous June 2022 flooding of the Yellowstone River. Event proceeds benefited the Southwest Montana Flood Relief Fund.
The Livingston and Paradise Valley communities took a big hit in expected tourism revenues. So, when Mayer announced he was hosting three intimate concerts for flood relief, it was just the dose of magic Montana needed.
Where the actual Pine Creek flows into the Yellowstone River is close to Mayer’s Montana residence, so Pine Creek Lodge, a favorite of the multiple Grammy-winner, was a natural choice for the charity concert series.
I was there for night one, August 8, when Mayer performed with the legendary Weir. Everything about that night was extraordinary, almost as if it was a dream. The traditional “open campus” aspect that Pine Creek Lodge is known for was a bit tauter. As expected, the small venue was wildly different from the last time Mayer and Weir took the stage with Dead & Company. The electricity in the air was palpable.
The two artists opened the show by exchanging lead on “Friend of the Devil.” If I closed my eyes, I could’ve been at any one of the massive venues they play—The Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington, Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre in Colorado, or even The Forum in Los Angeles.
Instead, we were minutes from our home, seeing absolute music supernovas, jointly grieving the losses the community endured from the flood.
The results of the flood were devastating and far reaching. Fishing guides couldn’t get on the river as soon as they wanted, let alone hold bookings. Bartenders and other service industry workers weren’t getting their usual summer paycheck to help push through the winter. And then there are the longtime locals living off the land who lost nearly everything.
It’s said that Pine Creek Lodge is one of the country’s first music venues with an on-site dispensary. Bozeman-based Cold Smoke Organics serendipitously kicked off their adult-use cannabis sales inside the venue the very same night Mayer and Weir graced the stage, setting the tone for what’s to come.
The dispensary’s founder and legacy grower Matt Kleman says his desire to set up shop inside Pine Creek all goes back to the human connection. “Music is a universal language, and cannabis is as well,” he says. “I grew up with those two cultures welded together, and it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. It makes sense. We want to bring people together and be a part of what the musicians are already doing.”
Cold Smoke Organics launched into the summer music season with three pre-roll varieties: Shakedown, Setbreak and Encore. Shakedown consists of Jack Herer, which is a sativa, meant to get your concert experience rolling. The Setbreak pre-rolls are a hybrid, Apple Fritter, mixing up your mid-show experience. Lastly, Encore consists of Tre Star Dawg, an indica hoping to move you right into your post-show groove.
But none of it would be possible—the weed or the music—without the passion of Pine Creek Lodge Owner Chip Hurt. According to Kleman, from the very beginning, he’s said, “Let’s go for it.”
What a night. Powerful. Inspiring. Once in a lifetime. Whether you decided to light one up and pass it around, or simply absorb the energy and talent of this special occasion, every person there came together for an evening this town will not soon forget. John Mayer’s love for this special corner of the planet was evident for all to see. The “Not Fade Away” encore may have said it best: “You know my love will not fade away.”
This story was originally published in issue 47 of the print edition of Cannabis Now.